Louigi Verona's Workshop


Telekinesis Q&A

by Louigi Verona
first published on the 21st of March, 2020
last updated on the 21st of March, 2020

What is telekinesis?

Telekinesis is an alleged ability of humans to influence the physical world without physical interaction. Essentially, it is a claim that some people or all people are able to move objects with their mind.

Some telekinesis claims are more obfuscated and suggest that telekinesis is the ability to influence probability in random systems.

A lack of a clear definition of telekinesis even among parapsychologists is common.

Is telekinesis a real phenomenon?


What are the types of telekinesis?

There are two types of telekinesis: initial claims, and claims that the proponents of telekinesis had to fall back to, because they failed to prove the existence of telekinesis proper.

Telekinesis is the most straight forward of paranormal claims: that you can use the power of your mind (whatever this is) to move/affect physical objects in space. In other words, you look at a phone on a table and order it to slide across the table - and it does. You tell the spoon to bend - and it does.

However, none of the documented claims of such abilities panned out: invariably they were either shown to be cheating or just fizzled out and went nowhere.

So, proponents of the paranormal moved to more vague claims: be able to affect the outcome of random events. That allowed them to make almost unfalsifiable claims about minute statistical deviations from the normal distribution. A bunch of researchers have conducted several experiments in the XX century, which neither others nor they themselves could reproduce (read up on PEAR research) and which were riddled with errors, but which ended up making wild claims about the reality of such “micro telekinesis”.

But while these poorly made studies went nowhere in the scientific community, they created a veneer of respectability for those paranormal researchers, who now squeeze themselves into TEDx talks, write and sell books, do lectures on the “forbidden physics” and have adherents all over Quora spreading falsehoods about how telekinesis is scientifically proven.

Telekinesis is an inherently implausible suggestion, there is no evidence that it exists, and its proponents, while having many opportunities to fix the initial studies or come up with better experiments, either chose not to, or were never able to actually do that.

Are there any documented and scientifically ran experiments to prove that telekinesis exists?

There are actually several. A number of telekinetic experiments have been made, and if you search for this online, names like Sheldrake, PEAR laboratory, J.B. Rhine would be mentioned.

Criticism of their efforts is also well documented. The problem with these experiments is that they have not convinced anyone who is not personally invested: they were badly designed, allowed for errors and misinterpretations to creep in, and furthermore, even if one were to take the results of many of these experiments at face value, all they achieved was to show telekinesis to exist as some sort of minuscule effect, barely detectable through statistical manipulation.

All of these features are classic signs of no effect. Researchers have also failed to reproduce experiments of others and, at times, their own experiments, which again are classic signs of there being no effect.

What is the best evidence of real life telekinesis?

I. Videos of telekinesis.

A lot of people on YouTube and elsewhere are posting videos, purporting to show telekinetic activity of some sort.

Sometimes the videos are clearly fake, shot with suspicious camera angles and strange lighting.

Some seem to be honest, but those are usually much less convincing and involve movement of systems, which are very easy to upset: tennis balls in a bowl of water, a dollar bill, balanced on a side, etc. From these videos it is often clear that the person performing “telekinesis” could be sincere, but it is impossible to really tell what’s happening and whether the object is being moved by air currents in the room or as a result of temperature changes, etc.

II. Scientific articles.

There is a small body of literature that claims to have evidence of telekinesis under controlled conditions. Almost none of these (if any) claim to have witnessed something direct and visual, instead these are mostly claims of alleged effects of thoughts on random number generators. Results usually involve minute effects, that barely fall over statistical significance.

These researchers (usually belonging to a single group from the Rhine Research Center) readily admit that the reproducibility of these experiments is poor, and that the effect is tiny:

PEAR founder Robert G. Jahn and his colleague Brenda Dunne say that the experiments produced "a very small effect" not large enough to be observed over a brief experiment but over a large number of trials resulted in a tiny statistical deviation from chance.

Which even in their words sounds quite unimpressive. And since none of the random number generators are truly random, taking advantage of their bias and engaging in a bit of p-hacking can create a tiny effect, which would not be reproducible. Which is exactly what we are observing.

These are the two types of evidence for telekinesis I can provide. And this is the best people can do. Which is to say, best evidence for real life telekinesis is very poor. So poor, in fact, that a reasonable person can make only one conclusion from the best available evidence: that telekinesis is not real.